The New York Rangers – reaching down deep – found the guts - the determination – and the will to win to beat the Penguins at home in game five and close out the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pittsburgh knew they couldn’t skate with us – and so they tried to grind it out. It took a while – but slowly the Rangers began to wear their opponents down.
Stepan scored first – in the first – on the powerplay to put the Rangers on top 1-0 – using his feet to kick the puck to his own stick to beat Fleury from point blank range.
One ominous note – Mats Zuccarello took a puck to the head later on the first and did not return. He’s being evaluated and all we can do is hope it’s not a concussion.
But in the 2nd – the Penguins tied it on a controversial goal that may have been elbowed in and may have been goalie interference. But after review it counted and on we went to the third.
In the last regulation period both Crosby and J. T. Miller hit iron but did not score. And so for the 2nd straight game we were going to overtime – ensuring that a 4th contest would end with the same 2-1 score.
The tension was sky high – the effort level was through the garden roof. And the goalies – both spectacular. Hanks was nearly perfect and Fleury was playing the best I had ever seen in his career.
For ten minutes of OT the teams went up and down the ice – and as the game wore on the Rangers depth began to win out. The tide was shifting to NY.
And then – on the final sequence – Moore fought off two Penguins in the right corner and got the puck to Hagelin. The Swedish forward, with his back to Fleury skated toward the right circle. And I don’t know if it was exhaustion or bad judgement – but Marc-Andre stayed on his knees and did not get back on his skates as this was transpiring.
Suddenly Hagelin spun and fired the puck at Fleury. The puck went short side and snuck past the Pittsburgh goaltender on his short side – and into the net – giving the Rangers a 70 minute 52 second victory in game 5 and it was time to shake hands.
While Fleury deserved a better fate – saving .944, Lundqvist was almost perfect in the Ranger nets – saving .974 of the 38 shots that came his way. And so we say a prayer for Mats Zuccarello and await the winner of the Capitals-Islanders series.
What Did We Learn? That the Rangers can close out a series in 5 games this year.
Assist “Sisters”: One each for Brassard, Boyle (who played maybe his best game as a Ranger), McDonagh, and Moore.
Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game? Happily yes! Rangers were 1-3 and they shut down the Penguins on their three attempts.
Where Do We Stand? We close out the Penguins in 5 games. 12 wins from the cup!
Oh My - What Will Happen Next? Wednesday night – so a few days off first.\
Non-Sequitur of the day: Matt Harvey with his first ever win in the Bronx.